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Citizenship

The commitments made at Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day

Chris Martin of Coldplay.
Getty Wire

On Saturday, a quarter of a million global citizens took a stand on the National Mall for the planet and its people. They were joined by celebrities, artists, and world leaders from across the globe. This amazing convergence of people allowed leaders to use our stage to make some amazing commitments to see the end of extreme poverty.

Below is a list of some of the most incredible announcements that together could potentially affect the lives of approximately 98 million people.

1. International Monetary Fund (IMF), Managing Director Christine Lagarde

“At the IMF 188 Ministers of Finance and Governors of Central Banks heard a big noise, and it was you. I’m here to give you a piece of good news, because they heard you...they are committed to ending poverty and financing development.”

Announcement: The Managing Director of the IMF committed to ending poverty and financing development specifically by going after tax havens and reforming tax systems so that the trillions of dollars that are not accounted for every year are properly taxed. Ms. Lagarde also acknowledged that “poverty is sexist”, and that if we are serious about ending extreme poverty and widespread inequality, we need to address this reality.

What that means: It was great to have Ms. Lagarde at the event to talk about extreme poverty and the importance of tackling tax havens to help finance that effort. For the first time, Ms. Lagarde publicly acknowledged the IMF’s role in tackling systemic issues related to inequality and development.

Right now, the world is losing billions – indeed trillions – from tax havens. Many multinational companies are simply not paying their fair share of taxes. NOW we need Christine Lagarde to tell countries how much is being lost due to tax havens and tell finance ministers to put in places laws and regulations to close this loop.

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We also need to see more from the IMF in terms of its resources. Interest free loans to the poorest countries can catalyze additional resources for development.

In the weeks and months to come, global citizens will be watching to make sure the IMF's actions live up to their rhetoric.

2. Republic of South Africa, CEO of the National Youth Development Agency Mr Khathutshelo Ramukumba

Announcement: The South African government pledged to contribute an estimated 370 million US dollars over the next 5 years to build youth infrastructure. They also committed to develop a youth employment plan through 2030 and create 11 million new jobs.

They also called on fellow African countries to join South Africa’s efforts in investing in youth.

What that means:

South Africa is a youth empowerment world leader when it comes to the fight against poverty. This announcement demonstrates South Africa’s leadership in addressing youth needs, and encouraging other countries to do similar work. 

3) Bretton Woods II, Director Tomicah Tillemann

Announcement: The Bretton Woods II initiative is pushing investors with a combined $25 trillion under management to adopt the Progress Pledge, a three-part commitment to:

  • Direct one percent of holdings to social impact investment, development finance, and civil society;
  • Focus investments on countries with high standards of governance and accountability; and
  • Support regulatory and tax reforms that encourage investment in development and social impact.

What that means:

The initiative has the potential to mobilize $250 billion worldwide. Of the 1% of investments that will be directed towards sustainable development, 50% will be focused on the world's least developed countries.

4) Ireland, Ambassador to the United Nations David Donoghue

Announcement: Committed that Ireland will continue to spend at least 50% of its aid budget in the least developed countries and to do as much as they can on aid. They pledged to also work with their partners in Europe and beyond to convince them to do so too.

What that means: Development assistance is disproportionately beneficial for the poorest countries. The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have fewer tools to fight poverty than wealthier countries that have access to resources like banks or private sector investment. LDCs are thus the most dependent on ODA, yet they currently receive the lowest aid allocations per person living in extreme poverty, compared to other countries.

According to the Overseas Development Institute, total development assistance to the poorest countries totaled $41.8 billion in 2013, but if all donors had directed half of their aid to these low-income countries, it would have provided them an additional $23.7 billion to fight poverty and disease.

5. Belgium, Vice-prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation, Digitization, Telecommunications and Postal Services Alexander de Croo

Commitment: Belgium reannounced their commitment of €36,000,000 to GPE between 2015 and 2019. This commitment is set to affect more than 300,000 lives.

What that means: The Global Partnership for Education offers the primary vehicle with which to reach as many of the world’s poor as possible with access to quality education.

GPE supports developing country partners to create and implement sound education plans, and helps to mobilize and coordinate resources that will enable achievement of better education goals. The financial contributions of donor countries like Belgium are critical for the survival of this program.

6. Sweden, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Minister for Foreign Affairs Isabella Löven

“Bono actually dedicated his song One – to Sweden. Because Sweden gives one percent of our Gross National income to international development aid. And I like to take the opportunity here to make a commitment on behalf of the Swedish citizens, of giving one percent of our Gross National Income to development assistance! And I hope other countries will follow as well.”

Announcement: Sweden recommitted to contribute 1% of its Gross National Income towards official development assistance (ODA), this is one of the highest percentages in the world. Sweden also committed to streamlining its development assistance to be climate friendly.

What that means: Only five countries currently give 0.7% of their Gross National Income in ODA, which is the target that developed countries all signed up to. Sweden is one of only a few countries that give beyond that, giving 1% of its GNI in ODA. This sets a strong example for the rest of the world to follow.

7. Sierra Leone, Minister of Energy Ambassador Mr. Henry O. Macauley

Announcement: Committed to strengthening healthcare systems to manage recovery and prevent future disease outbreaks. They also pledged to mobilize additional budget resources to improve their healthcare systems, education systems and create jobs for their young people, and grow their economies so that everyone can benefit.

8. Liberia, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection Julia Duncan-Cassell

Announcement: On behalf of Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Julia Duncan-Cassell called for continued action from the global community to support Ebola recovery efforts.

9. USAID, Associate Administrator Mark Feierstein

Commitment: USAID commits $126 million to support healthcare systems strengthening including vaccine immunization drives and medical support in Ebola affected countries.

How global citizens made this happen: Global Citizens have been instrumental in the effort to sustain and grow U.S. involvement in Ebola response and recovery. Global Citizens spoke out on social media on our Ebola Day of Action (April 2nd), calling upon USAID to remain committed to region.

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USAID heard this message loud and clear, announcing their intentions to continue to support all Sierra Leoneans, Guineans, and Liberians after the virus recedes completely. Global Citizens have also consistently followed Ebola stories on globalcitizen.org while taking action and calling upon world leaders to follow USAID’s lead and support healthcare systems strengthening.

10. Federal Republic of Nigeria, Federal Minister of Environment Lawrencia Laraba Mallam

Announcement: The Government of Nigeria committed to improve air quality by improving the management of chemicals and waste, and reducing the pollution-related health risks by at least 50% by 2020. It also committed to partner with the private sector to provide more effective and sustainable sanitation.

11. Norway, Foreign Minister Børg Brende

Commitment 1: Norway committed US $12 million over four years to air pollution reduction through the World Bank’s new Pollution Management and Environmental Health (PMEH) program. This commitment is expected to affect the lives of 42 million people.

Commitment 2: Norway also committed US $40 million over four years to clean cookstove initiatives.

What that means: Over the last few years, developing countries and other stakeholders have expressed demand for increased support on pollution management in order to respond to the magnitude of the threat to human health and economies. Launched at Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day, the PMEH program will initially work on Air Quality Management in large urban areas in countries where there will be most significant growth in urbanization over the next 35 years (China, India, Nigeria).

The commitment to the clean cookstoves initiatives is aimed at reducing black carbon emissions that are produced when meals are prepared with open fires or traditional cookstoves. It is estimated that 3 billion people in the world cook their food in this way, killing around 4 million people annually, and rendering many millions more sick.

12. US Representatives, Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Charles Rangel (D-NY)

Announcement: US Representatives called for US $425 million to go towards water and sanitation initiatives.

What this means: Last year the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act was passed to increase access to clean water and sanitation for the world’s poorest. Last December we overcame congressional gridlock and the Water to the World Act was sent to President Obama for his signature. It was an historic achievement, and global citizens were a part of it. Your efforts made a difference in Washington, DC. Now, Representatives Blumenauer and Rangel are asking us again to advocate to Congress to increase funding for these vital programs.

It’s an honor to address #globalcitizenearthday. Increasing access to clean water and sanitation for the world's poorest...

Posted by Earl Blumenauer on Saturday, April 18, 2015

13. The Netherlands, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen

Announcement: The Government of the Netherlands committed to double the number of people they have reached with water and sanitation efforts. Specifically, they pledged to provide clean toilets for 30 million people clean toilets, and clean drinking water for 50 million people.

What that means: Through their support of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council’s Global Sanitation Fund, the Netherlands is a leader in the effort to end open defecation. They understand that providing universal sanitation is not just about merely building toilets but also about changing attitudes and behaviours. Their leadership on this critical issue sets a strong example for other countries to follow.

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While Global Poverty Project welcomes the strong leadership of the Dutch Government around water and sanitation, we’re concerned by its decision to cut the Netherlands’ aid program from 0.7% of Gross National Income down to 0.5%. As one of the first countries to reach 0.7%, this decision sets a worrying precedent for other countries just when we need wealthy countries to double down and recommit to the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030. We’ll continue to work with our partners to call on the Dutch Government to reverse this decision.

14. World Bank Group, Senior Director, Water Global Practice, Junaid Ahmad

“Global citizens, providing water and sanitation to all is not just about poverty. It is about dignity. It is time to return this dignity to all poor people. And your voices, global citizens, are essential to holding governments and indeed the World Bank itself accountable to this goal.”

Announcement: Last year, Junaid Ahmad announced the World Bank Group’s commitment to spend US $15 billion over 5 years to support sanitation and behavioral change around toilet use and water supply. Junaid returned to the stage at Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day to announce that this commitment is on track, and that by September 2015 $4 billion will have disbursed including:

- US $500 million for a sanitation program in partnership with the Government of India;

- US $313 million to the Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Sindh, which is set to directly benefit more than 3 million people including millions of women and girls;

- US $80 million to reach more than 760,000 people in Burkina Faso with water and sanitation;

- US $72 million to end open defecation in Nepal; and,

- US $50 million to reach more that 500,000 people in Cholera hotspots in Haiti.

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When it comes to providing sanitation and ending open defecation, we know it takes more than constructing latrines. It takes behaviour change efforts that promote the use of toilets. With the World Bank Group now ramping up its financial support for sanitation it is critical that we hold them accountable for how this funding is spent, ensuring it goes above and beyond supporting the building of toilets.

15. Malawi, Her Excellency Gertrude Maseko Mutharika, First Lady of Malawi

“This Declaration calls on the global community to commit, both financially and politically, to improve the lives of the people of Malawi, and the world, through water and sanitation. We can do this by increasing access to safe, clean water and sanitation…. I am humbled to be the first woman to sign the Women for Water and Sanitation Declaration.”

Announcement: To present the Women for Water and Sanitation Declaration, and as its first of 45 signatories of prominent women, , the First Lady issued  a resounding call to action to world leaders to make strong political commitments to WASH.

What that means: This global campaign, launched by First Lady Madame Gertrude Mutharika in partnership with WaterAid, Global Poverty Project, WSSCC, WASH Advocates, Water.org, the World Bank Group and Unilever, calls for the prioritization of the water and sanitation agenda in the new Global Goals that will enable the eradication of poverty by 2030.

The Declaration stresses the undeniable impact of poor sanitation and unsafe water on health, education and economic progress, particularly in low-income countries like Malawi and Madagascar.

Sanitation interventions are one of the most effective ways to improve the health, economic prosperity and dignity of the world’s most disadvantaged populations. Life without safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene perpetuates poverty, exposes women to sexual violence, and causes illness, which prevents people from going to work or school. There is also a clear linkage to access to sanitation and the preventable deaths of newborns and under-five children. Diarrhea, lack of breastfeeding, malnutrition, and low birth weight, are the leading causes of death in newborns and under-fives, all results of inaccess to clean water and sanitation.

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Global Poverty Project will be distributing the Women for Water and Sanitation Declaration to key negotiators working on the final version of the Sustainable Development Goals to be approved by the UN General Assembly in September.

16. Norway, Prime Minister Erna Solberg

Announcement: Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced the continuation of Norway’s forest preservation program ($500 million per annum), and their commitment to maintain contributions at least until 2020.


The goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030 is incredibly ambitious. It will take organizations and governments coming together to reach a milestone for humanity. Most importantly, it will take pressure and commitment from global citizens like you and me. Every movement has its tipping point. 15 years from now, I hope we’ll look back and say, "this is where it all started."